Monday, May 27, 2013

Original Sin: Well, Could be Worse

When talking about the idea of Original Sin, which is the idea that there is at the beginning of human history a sin which taints all subsequent generations, sometimes Christians are accused of an existential pessimism. This appears to be a doom-and-gloom outlook on life which is popularly supposed to rob us of all our joy. Far be it from me to deny that such may often be the case! However, in my opinion this is often merely a misunderstanding of an honest, but fundamentally cheerful outlook on life.

Christians, and indeed, all people who watch the news, are distinctly aware that the world is often an unpleasant place, rude, hateful, petty and sometimes just plain senseless. Where most people act shocked and ill-used, as if this were somehow a personal insult to them and often end up concluding that the whole thing was a bad business from the start, the Christian has the doctrine of Original Sin to fall back on. Something unexpected happened in an otherwise good and useful system, some person did something that made no sense, and it threw things out of whack. We feel the effects of it today, much the way a baby born to a crack addict will feel the effects of crack addiction. We even add to the effects. So much we admit. Life is often tragic, absurd and ugly, but surely the fact that we can recognize that argues a deeper awareness of joy, reasonableness, and beauty? And does not the awareness of that fundamental defect somewhat take the sting out of it?

Rather like two guests, both staying at the same out of the way, Mom & Pop Inn in Nepal may have totally different experiences because they have totally different outlooks. One is expecting a five star hotel, and is frustrated by rolling brownouts, unreliable internet, spiders in the bathroom, no menu to choose from, and 58 steps to climb just to get to breakfast. The other realizes that this is what it is, an out of the way, Mom & Pop Inn in Nepal. Given that realization it is not nearly so bad as it might be. We have power quite often, the internet sometimes works, the spiders don't bite (or at least haven't yet), the food is healthy, delicious and plentiful, and at least a little exercise is guaranteed every day, just getting to breakfast!

In the same way, when you finally accept the fact that the world has that existential flaw which we call "Original Sin," you are free to recognize that these flaws are evils in a good system. The world itself is not evil. Certainly as a paradise our world falls quite a bit short, but for most of us it certainly is not a hell either. As worlds go it might be much worse. All in all, I would say it is not that bad. Good still happens, surprising and yet refreshing when it does, indicating that redemption, though difficult and incomplete just yet, is perhaps possible. That, to me, sounds suspiciously like hope.

1 comment:

  1. Just stopping through today, and wanted to say hello. You were on my mind. PBS did a wonderful special on our soldiers for Memorial Day. God bless you!